Connecting for Empathy
Education in Pakistan is riddled with multiple problems. The Pakistan National Education Policy (2009) recognizes that one of the biggest roadblocks to quality education provision is the practice of rote memorization, which ‘stops the mental growth of the child and blocks innovative learning’. The learning environment in schools is hardly empathetic, with textbooks and curricula promoting perspectives that encourage prejudice, discrimination, and incitement to militancy and violence (SDPI, The Subtle Subversion, 2003). Over 70% of teachers believe that corporal punishment is useful (Alif Ailan, The Voice of Teachers, 2014). The students are getting one message, loud and clear: they are on their own, and violence is a viable solution. Meanwhile, extracurricular and sports activities that could promote mutual respect, teamwork, and creativity are non-existent.
The Rabtt Way
Rabtt – which literally translates to ‘connect’ – is a social enterprise working to build a more empathetic society by developing and imparting a holistic education experience. By bringing on board volunteer-mentors, Rabbt’s programs focus on building four core competencies in students: Critical Thinking, Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Confidence.
The Summer Camp
Rabtt engages high-school students from public and low-cost private schools over the course of a year through summer camps in their own campuses. Volunteers are normally from a upper-to-middle social class with a background of private school education. The mingling of these two sets of individuals allows for communication and the exchange of ideas that otherwise does not often happen in Pakistan. These volunteers teach modules on Arts, World History, Dramatics, Thinking Skills, Public Speaking, Philosophy, English and Mathematics; most are subjects that the students have never been exposed to in school. The camp culminates in a Graduation ceremony where the students showcase all that they learnt over the summer, and is attended by students, parents, the school administration, and is open to the public. The 2015 Graduation Ceremony attracted an audience of over 1,000 people and various partner organisations.
I volunteered with Rabtt back in 2012, and over the years have formed deep friendships with the wonderful people involved. Teaching art to public school children who had never studied art before was one the most enriching and transformative experiences I’ve had. Since then, I have helped craft Rabtt’s art curriculum, designed elements of their branding, created a line of merchandise for fundraising, and reimagined how theory-intensive lessons can be communicated better with visuals. This work is close to my heart, and Rabtt continues to challenge and excite me about the possibilities design and art has to play in shaping a young mind’s curiosity and outlook on life.